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Arkansas State, Air Force, Northern Illinois, San Diego State on Big 12’s expansion list, too

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Friday it was reported that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be conducting videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Of those 17, 14 schools were known.

Now we know the other three schools, as well as an 18th interested in membership.

As we had previously noted, San Diego State was believed to be one of the original 17 mentioned by ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy.  McMurphy confirmed SDSU is one of the now-18 that’ll state their case to the league, while also noting that the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State, Mountain West’s Air Force and MAC’s Northern Illinois will do so as well.

So, for those keeping score at home, below is a conference-by-conference breakdown of potential additions to the Big 12.

AMERICAN
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
SMU
Temple
Tulane
UCF
UConn
USF

INDEPENDENT
BYU

MAC
Northern Illinois

MOUNTAIN WEST
Air Force
Boise State
Colorado State
New Mexico
San Diego State

SUN BELT
Arkansas State

While 18 schools will be afforded the opportunity to stump for their inclusion, it’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  While it remains to be seen whether the Big 12 expands by two or four, McMurphy also reported that it’s “less and less likely” that current 10-team conference will expand by four.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

Report: Big 12 will talk to 17 schools, expanding by two more likely than four

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While no announcement is imminent, it appears there’s some additional clarity on the Big 12 expansion front.

First and foremost, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy is reporting, it’s becoming what sources described as “less and less likely” that the Big 12 will expand to 14 from its current 10-school membership.  Instead, the conference likely either stand pat or add just two teams.  The latter move would allow the conference to split into two six-team divisions.

As for potential expansion candidates, McMurphy reports that commissioner Bob Bowlsby will conduct videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Those 17 schools include oft-mentioned suspects such as Boise State, Cincinnati, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Memphis, Tulane, UCF, UConn and USF.  Additionally, East Carolina, New Mexico, SMU and Temple are part of the large group looking for inclusion.

Only 14 of the 17 schools that will be a part of the videoconferences were listed by McMurphy.  It’s believed San Diego State is another of the 17.  Air Force, Fresno State and Hawaii have also been previously mentioned as possibilities.

It’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  The first one mentioned when it comes to presumptive front-runners will, however, have to overcome some negative attention some of its policies have received as of late.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

BYU AD responds to LGBT advocacy group’s letter to Big 12

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 11:  The BYU Cougars fans hold a banner as the team enters the field before a game against the Houston Cougars on September 11, 2014 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images)
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Monday, a report surfaced that a coalition of national LGBT advocacy groups urged the Big 12 in a letter to not admit BYU into the Big 12 because of what was described as “active and [open]” discrimination against the LGBT community by the university.

The letter, sent to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby as well as all 10 chancellors/presidents in the conference and which can be read in its entirety HERE, claims the Mormon school’s “anti-LGBT policies are bad for the Big 12 sports community, especially student-athletes.”  From the school’s stringent Honor Code:

Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.

Facing a backlash, BYU’s athletic director, Tom Holmoe, took to Twitter to get a message to the masses.

Given the attention the letter has received, BYU’s policies toward the LGBT community will certainly be a point of discussion as the Big 12 decides which expansion direction the conference will take.

In a statement, Bowlsby told the advocacy group that the comments contained in the letter will be taken into consideration.

“Thank you for your note,” the commissioner began. “As we move forward with our processes we will certainly take your comments into consideration. I appreciate your having taken the time to express your thoughts

Report: LGBT advocacy groups campaigning against BYU’s Big 12 bid

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 21: Flags of the BYU Cougars are run around the field during a game against the Utah Utes during the first half of an NCAA football game September 21, 2013 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. Utah beat BYU 20-13. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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BYU has been mentioned by many an observer as a front-runner for a revamped Big 12.  If an advocacy coalition has its way, however, the LDS school will be on the outside of expansion looking in.

According to FOXSports.com‘s Stewart Mandel, “[a] coalition of national LGBT advocacy groups is urging the Big 12 not to admit BYU as a new member.” Per a letter obtained by Mandel and addressed to commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the groups are pushing back against what they claim is “active and [open]” discrimination against the LGBT community by the university.

It’s expected that each member’s president/chancellor has/will receive a copy of the letter as well.

From Mandel’s report:

On Monday, Athlete Ally, a non-profit that conducts LGBT awareness campaigns for sports leagues, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sent a letter to Big 12 administrators detailing what they believe are discriminatory policies by BYU, a religious institution owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

In the letter addressed to commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the authors write in part: “BYU … actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff. It provides no protections for LGBT students … Given BYU’s homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and practices, BYU should not be rewarded with Big 12 membership.”

BYU students and faculty are expected to follow the school’s Honor Code, which includes a section addressing “Homosexual Behavior.” While “same-gender attraction” is not itself an Honor Code violation, taking part in a same-sex relationship is.

“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code,” it reads. “Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

An interpretation of that honor code would lead one to conclude that openly-gay student-athletes in general and football players specifically would not be permitted to compete at BYU. “We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission,” a spokesperson stated to Mandel.

An openly-gay former Big 12 student-athlete, ex-Oklahoma pole-vaulter Tanner Williams, very staunchly stated to Mandel that he would not have traveled to BYU for a meet if the Mormon school was a member of the conference during his days as a collegiate competitor.

Baylor, one of two current Big 12 members with deep religious ties, has recently changed language in its student code of conduct policy as it relates to “homosexual acts.” TCU, the other religious university in the conference, has what’s described as a “non-discrimination statement that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

In its bid to go from football-independent to Big 12 member in, possibly, all sports, BYU already has the “no games on Sunday” hurdle to clear.  Whether this, combined with that, is deemed insurmountable in the Big 12’s expansion process remains to be seen.

Big 12 reportedly prefers expansion to be settled before start of season

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Unlike most goings-on in the conference, it doesn’t appear the Big 12 is going to drag its feet on the biggest issue it’s currently facing.

The Big 12 announced earlier this month that the conference will expand, whether by two teams or four.  Regardless of the final number, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd, citing three individuals with knowledge of the ongoing process, reported Thursday, the conference “would prefer to wrap up the expansion process before the start of the 2016 football season.” The reasoning for an expedited timeline is simple: the powers-that-be in the league do not want expansion talk and speculation to overshadow actual football.

Such a timeline would also be beneficial for any incoming teams.

If the expansion teams are indeed announced before the season, that conceivably would give the new schools a chance to begin playing in the conference in 2017. For now, the league is in the process of contemplating how it will decide participants for its championship game that has been reinstated for 2017.

“I have not made any comment on time frame and do not plan any such statement,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dodd in a statement.

It’s believed that any new members for the Big 12 will come from a group that includes teams from both the AAC (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, UCF, USF) and Mountain West (Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State) as well as football-independent BYU.  More specifically, BYU, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn are considered by some/most observers as the front-runners, with some throwing Cincinnati in as well.

The AAC kicks off its Media Days Monday, and expansion will no doubt dominate the conversation during the two-day event.